Christian Living

Helpful articles to encourage followers of Jesus.

Pray for Spiritual Needs, Not Just Stubbed Toes

Think about the last time you were in a group prayer time. What kind of needs were prayed for most? I would guess physical needs. The illnesses and financial provision among others.   

 

It is very appropriate and right to pray for these requests, but my fear is that we too often neglect praying for spiritual needs. Recently I wrote about praying specifically, and now I want to focus on the content of those specific prayers.

 

If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that.” (1 John 5:16, CSB)  

 

This verse is clearly about a spiritual need–a believer sins. We can confidently pray for wayward sinners because God will restore abundant life. John has written much about sin in First John. He is clear that believers will still sin (1:8), but that they will not be characterized by a lifestyle of sin (3:8-9; 5:18). Jesus (he who was born of God) protects his followers and Satan cannot overtake them (5:18).

 

One of the blessings of being part of the family of God is that when we sin, we have a community of people who should prayerfully encourage us back to righteousness.

 

“We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It is just as natural a thing to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away, and who is in peril of making shipwreck of life, than to commit him to the grace of God.”  ~William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 138.

When we see a brother committing a sin, we are to approach God on his account. We are to pray that he would find the fullness of life again. We are pray that whatever is trying to steal, kill, and destroy him would be bound from him and that he would be restored to Christ. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)

What do you do when you see a brother committing sin?  

  • Ignore it? Maybe you worry about offending him by pointing it out.
  • Gossip? If your first response is to gossip rather than pray, you need to get rid of the log in your eye first (Matt. 7:5).

 

How can you make a practice of praying for spiritual needs?  

 

  • Change your prayer list. In your personal list, add a category called “spiritual requests” or something similar and add these kind of requests: those who need salvation, those who need to turn from active sin, and those who are struggling to keep their eyes on Jesus through difficult times (spiritual needs are almost always present in times of suffering).
  • Our church recently changed our weekly prayer list in our Ministry Guide to include these three categories: thanksgiving, mission, intercession. This is a way of teaching people how to pray. The “mission” section is like our spiritual requests (not for specific people usually but more church-wide requests related to our mission of carrying out the Great Commision).

 

    • Actually get to know people. Praying for spiritual needs will probably require you to get beyond the how are you/I’m fine passing conversation that requires no attention to the person. Be interested in him. Get to know his soul. Talk about struggles and real life situations. Be authentic.

 

  • Ask a better question. If you are leading a group time, don’t open prayer time asking does anybody have any prayer requests?  Most people will go into default mode of sharing about Grandma’s stubbed toe.  Instead, ask: who can we pray for that is struggling spiritually or needs their soul strengthened through difficulty right now? Your responses won’t be so much about that toe now.

 

 

Pray for spiritual needs and experience the abundant life that Christ offers.

 

Lottie Moon’s Broken Engagement and Commitment to the Gospel

Lottie Moon is a great namesake for the International Mission Board’s annual Christmas offering. She was committed to spreading the gospel and upholding the Bible. She died at the age of 72 after ministering 39 years in China, mainly in Tengchow and P’ingtu.

 

Let me tell you a quick story about Lottie Moon’s almost-husband and her commitment to the gospel to encourage you to follow her example.

 

Charlotte “Lottie” Digges Moon (1840-1912) attended Albemarle Female Institute, the female counterpart to the University of Virginia. In 1861, she received a master’s degree, becoming one of the first women in the South to reach that achievement. One of the teachers there was a man named Crawford Howell Toy. In June 1861, Toy asked Moon to marry him, but she refused at that time.

Toy was a student in the first session of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859 and went through the program very quickly. He was sent to Japan as a missionary for a short time in 1860, then joined the Confederate troops in the Civil War in 1861, eventually becoming a chaplain in General Lee’s army. He went to Berlin, Germany, to study from 1866-68 then returned to America to teach at Furman, an institution of Southern. In 1869, he was invited to be a professor of Old Testament at Southern. Toy’s theology, however, started shifting from conservative interpretations. Instead, he entertained ideas like evolution and the Bible having divine and human origins. Ultimately, it led to his dismissal from Southern with a tear-filled vote of 18-2 by a committee. They were saddened because they loved Toy and felt that he was a brilliant thinker who was getting off track.

Now, back to Lottie. She had been sending letters home from China as she served as a missionary. Toy saw them published in the Religious Herald and initiated communication between them. Eventually, she accepted his proposal for marriage and was planning to return to America to marry Toy, who was becoming the professor of Hebrew at Harvard University. Moon did not know of the controversy surrounding Toy, however. As she eventually heard about it, she studied books representing Toy’s position and became greatly opposed to his theology, broke the engagement, and never married. Toy eventually associated with the Unitarian Church before his death.

Lottie Moon should be commended not only for her mission work but her faithfulness to Scripture even when it came with great sacrifice. Is the gospel a priority in your life to the point where you obey Christ no matter the cost? Let’s follow Lottie’s example.

 

Want more like what you’re reading?  Check out my weekly podcast, Five To Focus.

 

Sources consulted:

~International Mission Board. “Who Was Lottie Moon?”  

~Dan Gentry Kent, The Saint’s Suitor: Crawford H. Toy. Baptist History and Heritage, 2003.

For What Are You Asking? A Lesson on Praying Specifically

2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.   (James 4:2-3)

 

For What Are You Asking?

You won’t see specific answers when your requests are so vague. Do you ask for anything outside of what God’s good character already provides?

 

Me: God, be with Sally today.

God: I already am. I’m omnipresent and promised never to leave you or forsake you.

Me: Lord, bless the Smith family.

God:  They are blessed. They woke up breathing today and ate breakfast. They have clothing and shelter. Is there anything else you’re thinking about?

 

A great example of specific prayer is in Mark 10:46-52. Let me summarize it: a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside in Jericho. When he heard that Jesus was walking by, he cries out twice: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Jesus called Bartimaeus over to him and asked this question, which could greatly change your prayer life:  What do you want me to do for you?

Do you see how Jesus pushed Bartimaeus beyond vagueness to specificity? Have mercy on me is not a bad prayer, but Jesus could have easily said: I already am merciful: you’re not in the pits of hell suffering for your sin right now. Instead, you’re still on this earth.

Specific prayer forces you to consider your situation and fine-tune your request to God’s will.  It forces you to consider the desires of your heart and align them with God’s will.

Look how Bartimaeus fine-tuned his request: Rabbi, let me recover my sight.  Now we see what mercy really meant to him. This request must have been in line with God’s will because he healed Bartimaeus, resulting in others praising God (Luke 18:43).

 

Tips for Praying Specifically

  • Consider Jesus’ question: What do you want me to do for you? Don’t be tempted into selfishness (James 4:3 is clear about our motive), but let it push you beyond vagueness.
  • Keep a prayer journal of specific requests, and then record specific answers. I keep a black Word notebook in my back right pocket so I can write down requests as I think of them or are asked to pray. Looking back over what you were praying and how God has been answering prayer will help you fine-tune your requests to His will.

 

What helps you pray specifically and consistently?

Why Jesus’ Yoke is Easy and His Burden Light

Don’t miss the simple, obvious truths when you read the Bible. Matthew 11:28-30 says, 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Some might ask: how is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light? They might equate Jesus’ yoke with unattainable religious rules that restrain their freedom.

 

Here’s the simple, obvious truth: Jesus’ yoke is easy because you are yoked to Jesus.

 

One alternate yoke is religious regulations.

The context of the passage in Matthew 11 is Jesus talking about salvation. At that time, Jewish people sought salvation and the pursuit of righteousness by keeping God’s Law. The Pharisees had deceived people into playing the part of being outwardly religious while being morally rotten on the inside (Matt. 23:27-28).

 

Romans 8:3 tells us that God did what the Law could not do–sending His Son to condemn sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled. So, while the Mosaic Law had its purpose, Jesus’ work on the cross is necessary for us to become righteous.

 

Some people are religious but are relying on their own strength to get by in this world. Man-made rules cannot fully restrain your sinful desires and can not fulfill or satisfy you. That’s a burdensome yoke.

 

Another alternate yoke is sin’s bondage.

All people are born into sin; therefore, all are in bondage to sin until they trust in Jesus to save them. John tells us that God’s commands are not burdensome because everyone who has been born of God (saved) has overcome the world (1 John 5:3-4).

 

In other words, if you are saved by Christ, you now live free from the bondage of sin and live in the freedom Christ offers to pursue righteousness. It’s like John is saying, you already know a burdensome yoke–the bondage of sin in the ways of this world–and Jesus frees you from that!

 

If you think God’s commands are burdensome, then you do not understand the futile burdens of the world’s ways. Yet we open ourselves and willingly yoke ourselves to them. That’s a burdensome yoke.

 

Jesus’ Yoke Is Easy

He did the work to make us righteous and He enables us to live in freedom from sin through the Holy Spirit. A yoke was used to keep animals in step together to accomplish a purpose. You are always moving closer toward eternity as you navigate life. The question you need to ask is what yoke am I wearing to find eternal significance in my life?

You can choose difficult yokes: religious demands or the world’s ways. Or you can choose Jesus, who accomplished what you could not (your redemption from sin) and who gives you what you do not have (strength from the Holy Spirit), so that you can navigate life in freedom and with a great hope lying ahead. That’s an easy yoke.

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith During Your Commute

  1. Enjoy silence. This idea seems crazy in such a busy world, but it might be the most peaceful time of your day! Sure, you’ll hear vehicles and other sounds, but let silence be a calming morning mercy to help prepare your mind for a productive day. On the way home, let it help you digest the day’s activities, or prepare for being present at home or ready for evening activities.
  2. Pray and/or meditate. It is kind of like Jesus’ getting away in the mornings (Luke 5:16); we just do it in a vehicle. Talk to God while you drive (this might help with your road rage too!). Or use this time to meditate on a passage you read recently. Justin Taylor’s article at the Gospel Coalition summarizes Donald Whitney’s methods of Scripture meditation—try this.
  3. Listen to the Bible.  The YouVersion app (and others) have audio versions of certain translations. Imagine how much of the Bible you could hear while driving! Hearing it will help store it in your heart (Ps 119:11) and will never return void. Many newer vehicles have bluetooth connectivity that would allow you to listen through your phone, or you can find Bibles on CD, maybe even at your library.
  4. Learn with podcasts and audiobooks.  If you’re in the car for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, why not challenge your mind with new information or be encouraged by leaders in different fields? In your podcast app, look up a topic that interests you and explore the options. Again, with bluetooth connectivity, you can listen through your phone in your car. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you are listening to Five To Focus! But search through the Christianity category and you will find many options. Bonus tip:  Most podcast apps allow listening at 1.5x or 2x speed, and you usually can hear every word still while taking less time to listen to a podcast. Audiobooks are very popular now with services like Audible and even OverDrive (free options using your public library card account).
  5. Make Phone Calls. Maybe you’re in a sales position and need to speak with your clients. Maybe you need to talk with a family member or church member. Or maybe you’re a pastor and just need to check in with some of your church members. Imagine if you just made one call a day during your commute. That’s 4 to 5 more contacts with church members every week—and it’s effortless and helpful.

 

Of course, be safe and pay attention to the road!

 

What do you do during your commute?

Are Churches Ready To Meet the Adoption Need?

Not every Christian is called to adopt, but every Christian is mandated to care for orphans (James 1:27). A Child’s Hope Int’l states, “There are approximately 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. It’s estimated that 120,000 are eligible for adoption. With over 400,000 churches in the United States, if one person in every 3rd church would say ‘I’ll take one’ all of the children would have a home.”[1] The church can meet the need.

Now consider this: I heard someone say once that the Church is not ready for Roe v. Wade to be overturned as many would desire. If the children who would have been aborted are not, but are given up for adoption instead, who will raise them? Is the Church ready to meet the need?

Think of the gospel impact the Church could have through adoption. To some degree, adoption is a picture of what Jesus did for us: reaching into a hopeless situation to bring hope and joy and fulfillment of life. Most churches could start by providing foster and adoptive families to their county children’s services. A need always exists there.

If you study soteriology (the study of salvation), you will know that adoption is an incredible part of our salvation. Christians are adopted into the family of God (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7; Romans 8:15-17), and we ought to be grateful! Millard Erickson defines adoption (spiritually) as the “transfer from a status of alienation and hostility to one of acceptance and favor.[2]”

Now think about this: God created physical life and God gives spiritual life (through Jesus Christ, including the process of spiritual adoption).  The Bible only advocates two ways of parents raising children: 1) through the physical process of a husband and wife bringing a child into the world, and 2) through adoption or orphan care (James 1:27). Therefore, raising and caring for children mirrors the work that God has already done.

Adoption illustrates and explains the love of Jesus. Is the church ready to meet the need?

 

How is your church meeting the foster and/or adoption need in your community?

[1] http://thechildrenarewaiting.org/adoption/fostercare
[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI, 2013), 891.

 

Fanny Crosby: Faithfulness through Obstacles

What will you do the day before you die? For Fanny Crosby, it was to write another hymn.

Biographies of faithful believers can inspire us to continue living boldly in our faith and Fanny Crosby’s story will not disappoint. If you have ever looked at a hymnal, you have probably seen her name. Other than the Wesley brothers, Fanny Crosby’s name might appear more than any other composer’s name in hymnals. Her hymns are full of theological richness and joy, like “Draw Me Nearer,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour,” “Near the Cross,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “To God Be the Glory.”

Now let me fill you in on a little of her story.

Frances Jane Crosby was born in Southeast, Putnam County, New York (near Poughkeepsie), on March 24, 1820. She developed an infection in both eyes at just six weeks old, and the doctor’s treatment ended up blinding her for the rest of her life. Toward the end of her first year of life, her father died. Her mother, Mercy, raised her alone and taught Fanny not to turn to self-pity but self-sufficiency.

Crosby enrolled in the New York Institute for the Blind and spent twelve years as a student there and another eleven years as a teacher. She taught a man named Alexander Van Alstyne and eventually married him on March 5, 1858. Alexander was an accomplished organist and composed to the tunes of many of Fanny’s hymns. She collaborated with many great hymnists of her time like William Bradbury and William Doane, and she was published by some popular publishers like Ira Sankey and P.P. Bliss.

Let nothing stop you from serving the Lord in the ways He has gifted you. Fanny certainly overcame adversity. She never let her circumstances paralyze her faith. Crosby died on February 12, 1915, with a total of around 9,000 hymns to her name and her last one written on February 11. I hope we all can have the same kind of faithfulness to the end of our lives!

 

Sources consulted:

  • Nichols, Stephen.  http://5minutesinchurchhistory.com/fanny-crosby
  • Watkins, Keith. “A Few Kind Words For Fanny Crosby.” Worship 51, no 3 (May
    1977): 248-259.

Why I Love Hearse Rides

I always enjoy hearse rides.

After officiating a funeral service, I usually ride in the hearse with the funeral director to the cemetery.

I enjoy those rides because I have great discussions with funeral directors. It is especially interesting to talk with them about their beliefs in life after death because they see death all the time and are naturally confronted with this topic. But in all of the conversations (sometimes about some interesting situations and facts!), none of the funeral directors have told me they have seen a dead body raised to life.

Maybe you have not seen a physical resurrection (I haven’t), but have you ever thought about the joy that comes in seeing spiritual resurrection? We should be proclaiming the gospel and seeing this all the time–dead souls made alive again!

Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

Graciously, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). Once we are made alive, we are given the task of proclaiming the message of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

I saw a great reminder of the joy and task of participating in spiritual resurrection when I read the words from a hymn called “Soldiers of Christ, In Truth Arrayed.” Basil Manley wrote this hymn for the first graduation ceremony of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary circa 1860.

The first two verses:

Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.

His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.

 

I’m thankful that my soul is alive in Christ and I’m thankful that I can participate in God’s mission of seeing souls come alive!

Tyndale and Wycliffe, Strangling and Burning

The Bible caused William Tyndale to be strangled and burned to death–do not take it lightly!

In 1526, Tyndale translated and published the first-ever mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language. The King James Version came out in 1611, and it is remarkable to think that almost 100 years before, producing the Bible in English was considered heresy that would lead to death. Tyndale’s famous last words at his execution came true: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” Read More

Scroll to top
Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com